Why Does My Turtle Swim Into the Glass?

One of the joys of getting a new turtle is watching him swim around in his tank. But sometimes it seems like our turtles are obsessed with swimming into the glass to the point where you may become concerned. 

Why does my turtle swim into the glass?  Usually because of poor tank conditions, a poor diet, or because they’re overly stressed out. 

There are other reasons, too, that can cause your turtle to swim into the glass. In this post, we will discuss more possible reasons why your turtle may be frantically swimming into the glass, when you should be concerned, and what you should do about it to keep your little friend stress-free and happy. 

Poor Tank Conditions

Poor tank conditions can cause a multitude of problems for the health of your turtle. It can cause them to be stressed out and want to escape, which is usually the reason behind your turtle swimming against the glass of its tank. If your turtle is unhappy with the conditions of his tank, it is only in his nature to try to get out of the tank and find a better environment. 

Here are some ways that your turtle’s tank may not be suitable. 

Improper Water Temperature

Turtles are cold-blooded creatures. This means that they do not produce heat on their own and must rely on outside sources to generate it. They need a certain amount of heat in their body to complete basic functions such as having enough energy to digest food. Therefore, being able to find that external heat source is extremely important for your turtle’s wellbeing. 

A big way a turtle finds this heat is by the temperature of the water in his tank. Of course, the exact temperature the water should be varies from species to species. You should contact your local reptile store or veterinarian to confirm the exact temperature you need for the kind of turtle you own. That being said, generally the water temperature should fall between 75 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.  

If they can’t find this external heat source from their water, they are going to try to swim to find warmer water. It’s in their instinct to do so. Therefore if your turtle keeps swimming against the glass it’s probably because the water is not warm enough. Thankfully though, that’s an easy enough problem to fix.

“How do I keep this temperature at a constant temperature” you may ask? The old school way is to keep tabs on the water temperature every few hours and add more hot water as needed. There are however a lot of cool things you can buy to get rid of this problem like a tank heater, for example. 

Improper Basking Temperature 

Similar to the temperature of your tank water, if the heat provided from your basking light is not adequate, this will cause your turtle to want to break out of his tank in search of higher temperatures. 

The temperature of your basking light is even more important than that of the water because basking is when turtles get most of their heat for their bodies. This works as the opposite, as well. If the heat is too high (same with the water) this will make your turtle search for a cooler area. 

Again, the exact temperature needed in a basking light does vary from species to species. However, a general number to go on is between 85 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Poor Nutrition

Turtles are remarkable creatures and they can sense in their bodies when they aren’t getting the right amount of nutrients they need. Various nutrients are extremely important to your turtle’s health, especially calcium. We all know that turtles need a variety of things in their diet, ranging from worms to leafy greens to pellets. 

If your turtle senses that he is lacking in his diet and is lacking in nutrition, he will try to swim to find other types of food. So if your turtle is swimming into the glass repeatedly despite the temperature and basking light being properly monitored, it may be possible that you need to have another look at his diet to see if that could be the cause of the problem. 

Do some research based on the exact type of turtle you own to see what they need in their diet to be properly taken care of. There are a lot of great resources on the internet for this but if you’re stuck, talking in person to a veterinarian is always a great idea.

Stressed Or Confused

Okay, so you’ve checked to make sure your turtles living conditions are adequate right down to triple checking their vitamin intake and nutrition level. But, you’re still seeing your turtle swim around the tank like something’s wrong. What gives? 

There are other reasons why your turtle may be swimming into the glass. 


Turtles are actually very sensitive creatures. If your turtle feels too stressed out he will try to swim out of the tank to find an environment with not as much stress. The reason for this cause of stress could be anything from too much handling to too loud noise. 

Like most reptiles, turtles actually have great hearing. So good, in fact, that they can get stressed out pretty easily if you don’t watch the noise levels. A loud stereo positioned too close to their tank is enough to raise stress levels in your turtle. 

Other reasons they could be stressed out is if they feel threatened by their owner mishandling them or handling them too often or even if there is general chaos around their tank (like a small child banging on the glass or another pet trying to jump in with them). 

If you sense your turtle is feeling stressed, the best thing you can do for them is to move the tank or cut down on the stimulation your turtle is getting. Make sure that their tank is somewhere peaceful and calm. A peaceful environment will make for a peaceful, unstressed turtle. 


Your turtle may also be confused. If you just brought your turtle home, they may be confused or even scared by this new environment and they may try to escape or find shelter. This is perfectly normal. Simply leave them alone for a few days while they get adjusted to their living space. 

Turtles can also be a little confused by the glass in their tank. Remember that in the wild there are no tanks and there is no glass. Your turtle may simply be confused about the presence of the glass and may try to swim past it because they don’t realize what the glass is. 

That said, it may take a few days or even a few weeks to adjust to their new environment. 


There are still other reasons why your turtle may be acting strangely. If you have a female turtle, consider that they may actually be pregnant. Pregnant turtles try to swim out of the glass because they are trying to swim into a new environment, probably because they’re trying to find the best place to lay their eggs. 

Luckily, if your turtle is pregnant, there will be other signs of her pregnancy besides simply swimming into the glass.  She will also stop eating because she is so focused on trying to find a nesting spot. She will also change her basking patterns or even stop basking all together.

Two important notes on if your turtle is pregnant: The first is that females are able to become pregnant without the presence of a male. She can still lay eggs – they just won’t be fertilized so no baby turtles will come out.

The second important thing is that if you suspect your turtle is pregnant it’s important to bring her to the vet so she can be professionally checked. Vet’s know how to do this in a gentle manner. If you check your turtle too hard for eggs the eggs can break inside your turtle. This is almost always fatal. 


If your turtle is swimming against the glass this could be for many reasons. Firstly, the conditions of the tank could be improperly maintained. The first step would be to check the tank’s water temperature and basking light temperature to make sure your turtle is not too cold (or too hot).

In addition to that, poor nutrition can cause your turtle to want to leave the tank as well, so it is important to double check their food intake and make sure they are getting their proper amount of vitamins. Lastly, little things can cause a turtle to feel stressed or confused.

If you have made sure their living conditions are adequate it may be time to look at where their tank is in your home and if they could be feeling stress of excess noise or disruption. As always, if you are concerned at all for your turtle’s well-being, consult a professional by speaking with a vet or a reptile expert at your pet store to get a second opinion. 




I’m Devin Nunn, an average joe that just so happens to have a deep love and passion for everything to do with reptiles. Because taking care of them for the vast majority of my life wasn’t fulfilling enough, I decided to begin educating others about them through my articles. read more...